Image: Transcription of a chant based on visualization by the Photophonograph
Image: Visualization of a chant of the Ute by the Oscillograph.
Image: The ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger at his Melograph.

The Politics of Music Capturing. Music Information Retrieval and Ethnomusicological Research, 1900–1970

Christopher Klauke’s research project explores the ways in which concrete political structures and beliefs have influenced the historical development, establishment, and operativity of the knowledge techniques of music capturing.

Music Information Retrieval has become a central and widely used resource for today’s data-driven music culture. It enables the algorithmic transcription and analysis of music and is used by, for example, music streaming platforms and large-scale musicological projects. Surprisingly, this knowledge technique emerged within disciplines peripheral to the humanities: ethnomusicology and folk music research, which were shaped by colonial, eugenic, or emancipatory assumptions. From 1900 onward, various machines—such as phonophotographs, melographs, or spectrographs—were developed that were able to address and translate the audio signals of non-Western music recordings into diagrammatic forms.

Methodologically, the project is situated in media history, specifically Kulturtechnikforschung, and in postcolonial history of knowledge. It draws on recent publications in the fields of science and technology studies, musicology, and visual studies.

Christopher studied musicology, music pedagogy, and art history at Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen for his BA. He earned his MA in musicology at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2022 with a thesis on techniques of measuring and listening in the Phonogramm-Archiv Berlin.

Publications & Presentations

Articles (Selection):

Klauke, Christopher, and Valentin Ris (2023 - under review). “Epistemologien, Praktiken und Politiken der Organologie: Überlegungen zu einer kulturtechnisch orientierten Instrumentenforschung.” In: Instrumentenforschung 2.0, edited by Alan Ruben van Keeken and Johanna Imm. Osnabrück: Olms.

Klauke, Christopher, and Raphael Börger (2023 - under review). “Eine vergessene Schule der Musikwissenschaft? Anmerkungen zu einer musikalischen Wissensmaschine in Ost-Berlin 1959–1990.” In: Musikwissenschaftliche und musikalische ›Schulen‹? Strukturen, Analyse, Dynamiken, edited by Jakob Uhlig. online: musicon.

Klauke, Christopher, Anne Delle, Alan Fabian, José Gálvez, Steffen Just, and Veronika Muchitsch (2023 - under review). “Klangliche Materialität von Musik. Ein Forum.” In: All the Things You Are. Populäre Musik und materielle Kultur, edited by Ralf von Appen und Peter Klose. Bielefeld: transcript.

Klauke, Christopher (2020). “Gemeinschaftsstimme. Klangpolitik, Volkskörper-Werden und Massensingen im Nationalsozialismus.” In: Wissen im Klang. Neue Wege der Musikästhetik, edited by José Gálvez, Jonas Reichert, and Elizaveta Willert, 79–91. Bielefeld: transcript.



January 2023 With Christina Dörfling: "Arbeitsmethode... team work – Popularmusik-Forschung in Ost-Berlin,“ Populäre Musik und ihre Geschichte. Sammeln - Forschen - Publizieren, Lippmann+Rau Musikarchiv Eisenach.

October 2022: “Between Music-Anthropological Research and Culture Regulation: Cybernetic Investigations of Popular Music in the GDR 1957–1970.” as part of the panel with Alan van Keeken “Scientific Investigations and Critique of Popular Music and Sound in the GDR and FRG 1950–1970: Two Case Studies.” Parallelgesellschaften: conference of the Gesellschaft für Popularmusikforschung and the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst Wien.

May 2022: “Appunns Tonometer. Zur Kolonialität eines akustischen Interfaces zur Vermessung von Musik im Phonogramm-Archiv Berlin,” Akustische Interfaces, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

December 2021 With Raphael Börger: “Zu einer musikalischen Wissensmaschine Ost-Berlin 1959-1990,” DVSM-Symposium: Musikwissenschaftliche und musikalische ›Schulen‹? Strukturen, Analyse, Dynamiken, online.

November 2021: Poster “Appunns-Tonometer. Zur concrétisation eines Instruments, das andere Instrumente vermisst, oder: eine Organologie der Organologie um 1900,” Instrumentenforschung 2.0, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg.

October 2021 With Lorenz Gilli and Steffen Just: Round Table “Klangliche Materialität der Musik. Eine Soundierung” (speakers: Alan Fabian, José Gálvez, Maren Haffke, Johanna Imm, Veronika Muchitsch, Katharina Preller), All the Things You Are. Populäre Musik und materielle Kultur, Technische Universität Dortmund.

November 2020: “Volkskörper-Werden. Körperpolitische Dimensionen der gesanglich artikulierten Gemeinschaftsstimme im Nationalsozialismus,” Body and Corporeality in 20th and 21st Century Music, University of Music and Performing Arts Graz.  

Image 1: Transcription of a chant based on visualization by the Photophonograph. (© Metfessel, Milton (1928). Phonophotography in Folk Music. American Negro Songs in New Notation. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, p. 79.)

Image 2: Visualization of a chant of the Ute by the Oscillograph. (© Densmore, Frances (1922). Northern Ute Music. Washington, DC: Washington Government Printing Office, p. 106.)

Image 3: The ethnomusicologist Charles Seeger at his Melograph. (© UCLA Los Angeles. Ethnomusicology Archive,